City sicker? A meta-analysis of wildlife health and urbanization

Maureen H. Murray, Cecilia A. Sánchez, Daniel J. Becker, Kaylee A. Byers, Katherine E.L. Worsley-Tonks, Meggan E. Craft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Urban development can alter resource availability, land use, and community composition, which, in turn, influences wildlife health. Generalizable relationships between wildlife health and urbanization have yet to be quantified and could vary across different measures of health and among species. We present a phylogenetic meta-analysis of 516 comparisons of the toxicant loads, parasitism, body condition, or stress of urban and non-urban wildlife populations reported in 106 studies spanning 81 species in 30 countries. We found a small but significant negative relationship between urbanization and wildlife health, driven by considerably higher toxicant loads and greater parasite abundance, greater parasite diversity, and/or greater likelihood of infection by parasites transmitted through close contact. Invertebrates and amphibians were particularly affected, with urban populations having higher toxicant loads and greater physiological stress than their non-urban counterparts. We also found strong geographic and taxonomic bias in research effort, highlighting future research needs. Our results suggest that some types of health risks are more pronounced for wildlife in urban areas, which could have important implications for conservation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-583
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank R Hall, S Magle, C Teitelbaum, and M Whitlock for providing thoughtful comments on a previous version of the manuscript. Funding was provided by the Grant Healthcare Foundation (MHM); the ARCS Foundation (CAS, DJB); NSERC Vanier Graduate Scholarship (KAB); CVM Research Office UMN Ag Experiment Station General Ag Research Funds (KELW‐T, MEC); and NSF DEB 1413925 and 1654609 (MEC). MHM conceived the study; MHM and CAS coordinated project completion; MHM and DJB analyzed the data; MHM, CAS, DJB, KAB, and KELW‐T designed figures and tables; MHM, CAS, DJB, KAB, and KELW‐T drafted the manuscript; and all authors collected data and revised the manuscript critically for intellectual content. The data and R code supporting the results have been archived in Dryad, and are available at: https​:// .

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